Pat Metheny's new album "Secret Story" (CD Geffen GEFD-24468) is like Chicago weather. If what you have isn't to your liking, just wait a minute because a change is right around the corner. I probably have eight or nine Metheny albums, beginning in 1975 with "Bright Size Life" when he was joined by Bob Moses and the late Jaco Pastorius.
This is the most ambitious album he has ever made. On the first cut, he uses a Cambodian chorus, and then a later track is based on a Japanese tune and still another built on a chant he heard in India. Another ("The Truth Will Always Be" that gets a Kitaro treatment, honest!) and one that reminded me of some of the things that Gary McFarland did in the 1960s.Most of it works, particularly the lovely "Always and Forever" with the venerable Toots Thielmans on harmonica and Charlie Haden on acoustic bass. Metheny says, "I'm proud of this one . . . It's a tune I think I'll be playing the rest of my life."
"Not to be Forgotten (Our Final Hour)," with members of the London Orchestra, closes out this 761/2-minute release, and it's gorgeous. So is "The Longest Summer," where Metheny makes his piano playing debut. There are too many players to mention - Metheny estimates he used 82 musicians - but it should be noted that percussionist Nana Vasconcelos is a vivid presence throughout.
I've been playing this album a lot, and I like it more with each listen. "Secret Story" is a worthy addition to any collection.
- Here's a new one. Thomas Burns, the president of the Denver-based Capri Records, says the first release in more than 10 years by the Clayton Brothers - John and Jeff - is probably "the best recording to be released on Capri!" Well, who am I to challenge the Prez, especially when he ends the sentence with an exclamation point!
Actually, I don't need any prodding because I raved about the Clayton-Hamilton big band sound ("Heart and Soul") earlier this year. "The Clayton Brothers - The Music" (Capri CD 74037-2) pairs John (bass) and Jeff (alto flute, alto and tenor saxes) with Bill Cunliffe on piano and one of my favorite drummers, Jeff Hamilton, who backed the Ray Brown Trio last year at Snowbird.
After a frisky opener "Touch and Go," one of four Jeff Clayton compositions, the mood of the subsequent eight cuts are pretty mellow, including such chestnuts as "Misty," "Skylark" and "I Concentrate on You." As they did with "Take the A Train" on the big band album, the Claytons take a different approach to an oldie, in this case Ferde Grofe's "On the Trail," which features a Hamilton solo. Big band or quartet, these four are worth a listen.
- I was introduced to guitarist Bruce Forman last year with his "Still of the Night," a trio of bassist John Clayton and drummer Tootie Heath.
Forman has added a few people for "Forman on the Job" (Kamei CD KR 7004), including superstar saxist Joe Henderson on four of the 11 cuts and Andy Narell and his steel drums for two tracks. Narell, of course, was one of the Snowbird headliners this summer. Vince Lateano replaces Heath on drums while Mark Levine mans the piano with John Santos on percussion and the result is excellent. There are some new sounds - Forman composes three tracks - but also some Gershwin, Cole Porter, Bud Powell ("Un Poco Loco"), Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia." Give Forman a listen. This is good stuff.